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Intentionally ‘Without Intent’ — Florida vs. Mens Rea (Inside NACDL)
By Norman L. Reimer
It is one thing to unwittingly slide down a slippery slope, it is
another to deliberately plunge headlong into the abyss. But when it
comes to the increasing tendency to limit intent requirements in the
criminal law, Florida has taken that plunge with utter abandon.
Last May, NACDL and The Heritage Foundation published a groundbreaking
report, Without Intent: How Congress Is Eroding the Criminal Intent
Requirement in Federal Law.1 The report focuses on shoddy
lawmaking that is systematically diminishing the criminal intent
requirement – a moral anchor of the American criminal justice system.
The notion that a person accused of crime is presumed innocent and
should not be punished unless the state can prove that the person acted
with criminal intent is inherent in the American system of justice. Not
so in Florida.
Several years ago, Florida enacted a statute that eliminated the intent
requirement from drug possession and distribution laws. Under this law a
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